The search for prosperity is often confused with the search for material riches and power. For centuries, human kind has risked life, limb, and love in an effort to grasp ever more material wealth. Many generations have defined prosperity and success in terms of dollars and cents and the title next to a person’s name.
I am in Istanbul at this time delivering the keynote address to a group of about 2000 heads of corporate and NGO Human Resources departments. As I prepared my talk I focused on the values held by the new generation and the lessons they are delivering about the need to create new business models. Once again, I have been struck by how rapidly things are changing.
The new generation, who are also our future leaders, demand authenticity, compassion, and actions driven by commitments to the common good. In general, they value freedom over money, spiritual fulfillment over power, and a sustainable culture over decadent life-styles. They do not need to be told that the environment is in trouble; unlike previous generations, they have grown up with the knowledge that we are ravaging the earth and that it can not continue.
In a world where the divide between the rich and the poor is so drastically and tragically vast, the next generation of leaders must be a force for change. The inequality between those with resources and opportunities and those lacking the most basic necessities is evidence that our search for material wealth is only driving us closer to destruction, and therefore we all have an obligation to encourage the coming generations to continue to honor and live by a new set of guiding principles.
Each of us can use the example of this generation of future leaders to encourage us to pursue our own more fulfilling definition of success – whether that is personal freedom and dignity, quality time with family, or self-expression through art or music. I personally have found that there is nothing more satisfying than investing time, energy, and sometimes money in endeavors that help others and that lead us down a path to replacing a system that is so obviously dysfunctional and self-destructive with one that will provide true prosperity.